Zillow plans event to “hack” housing

Offers $10,000 prize for creative solutions to jumpstart market

Zillow (Z) is offering $10,000 to anyone who can come up with a “creative solution” to jumpstart the slumbering housing market.

The online real estate giant is planning a weekend “hackathon” from Feb. 6-8, where developers will be challenged to devise an innovative way to make it easier for first-time homebuyers, low-income renters and senior citizens to find a home that meets their needs, Zillow said.

And the prize for the most creative solution is $10,000.

The event, titled “Hack Housing: Empowering Smarter Decisions,” is being conducted in coordination with the White House, U.S. Department of Commerce and theDepartment of Housing and Urban Development and in partnership with the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington.

“Zillow provides an enormous amount of real estate data to consumers to help them through the process of finding a home, but information about government programs and data about accessibility of homes that qualify under these programs has remained fragmented or unavailable,” Zillow said.

“As part of the event, participants will have access to newly released government data sets on topics like federal housing programs; apartment buildings with accessible apartments; and transit information,” Zillow added. “In addition, Zillow will make available its data on home values and rents.”

In recent weeks, Zillow is taking a more active role in shaping the future of the housing market.

Earlier this week, Zillow hosted a fireside chat with HUD Secretary Julián Castro. During the event, which was moderated by Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries, Castro and Humphries discussed the current challenges facing potential homebuyers.

“Investment in a home is an investment in the long run in creation of wealth,” Castro said during the event. “A confluence of better economy, wages starting to go up and gas prices going down create some breathing room for people stuck in that rut to save some money to buy that first home.”

Zillow’s “hackathon” will be held Feb. 6-8 at Zillow Tower in Seattle.

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